Is Your Church Boring People with The Gospel?

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He’s only twelve years old but he convinced his whole family to try a different church. After spending the night at our house one weekend, Josh attended a service at the downtown campus of Cross Point Church. He sat quietly through worship and teaching but afterward spoke his peace “wow, I wish my church was like this. It’s so boring and I hate going.” Weeks went by and Josh visited again with us. Three weeks later, he was back. This time with his whole family: mom, dad and older brother. They sat next to us and left the service with big smiles on their faces and these parting words, “we will be back!”

Is Your Church Boring People with the Gospel?

I love my church and I’m definitely biased about what happens there, but I also know the congregation Josh and his parents use to attend. I understand their feelings. When was the last time someone bored you with the gospel? To me that’s inexcusable.

I’m not talking about worship or teaching styles. I’m not comparing traditional with contemporary, electric guitars with pipe organ. I’m making a contrast between a life-giving worship experience and an energy-draining service. I’m making the case for a place where success in your Christian walk is measured by life-transformation instead of only knowledge of biblical facts.

I’ve been to dynamic churches in the entire stylistic spectrum. However, they all have the same ability to engage both the heart and mind, to connect faith and life in a relevant and powerful way. I don’t know about you, but I no longer want to go through a service and say “I learned a lot today.” That’s not enough. I want to look back and say “something happened today and I’m changed.”

What would Josh say if he were to visit your church?

  • Bob

    I must confess, I'm not sure Josh's experience would have been a whole lot better at my church.

  • Leah Vaughn

    Years ago we went to a very legalistic, dry church. We learned a lot but didn't have much joy because everything was predicated on doing not on being. Since then we have found a much more loving and grace-filled church we love. While they also teach the Bible, our lives are so much fuller and richer. Thank you for the post.

  • Doug Heiman

    It would be helpful to know what specific elements connected with Josh in his worship experience at your church. Thanks!

    • He connected with the teaching style of Pete Wilson more than anything else.

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  • I think he'd like it. We're all about loving people and aren't afraid of change. Lots of young folks, meeting in the heart of Detroit. I love it 🙂 (http://www.hope4detroit.com for reference)

  • Hard to say, as the style of our church is very different from that of Cross Point; however, I'm sure that he'd experience a similar life-giving passion that CP does such a great job of conveying. As you suggest, Maurilio, that is the heart of the Gospel. More than a service, however, Josh would see that our church is a community – a place where people connect before, during, and after the "service." He and his family would most likely be invited to coffee or asked out to lunch later in the week.

    My pastor would most certainly greet them and welcome them, as would the rest of the church (without being overbearing).

    Okay, I'm bragging a little…

    But this post does reveal something that concerns me – why do we place such a heavy emphasis on the "service"? What I love about my church is not just the impact of the sermon or the music or teaching or much of what happens on Sunday.

    Certainly, it is an "outsider's" first impression of your church, but I wish we (and I do mean "we"), would do a better job of evaluating people's experiences with church not based solely on the service, as there is (or ought to be) so much more to church life than a one-day gathering.

    • Jeff, for better or worse people's opinion of the church is reflected on how they feel about the pastor. As a matter of fact 80% of the people will join the church because they relate to the pastor during the message.

  • Ouchie…. great article that really hits you in the Gut. Thanks for posting.

  • Happy to say Josh would have had the same experience at our church as it is very very similar to Crosspoint…in fact some ties there…but I digress.

    This was EXACTLY what I used to experience. For years I had attended a very tradition, denominational church and got to the point where I was bored and did not see where it provided me anything but a beat down.

    When we moved to Nashville, I walked into my church the first time and was excited I could come as I was, Starbucks in hand, and would be accepted for who I was. No shirt and tie needed…just me and it was okay that I wasn't perfect or pretended to be so. Open, welcoming and willing to listen to my flaws and embrace me.

    Kudos to Crosspoint for being that environment to Josh and his family. I have many friends at Crosspoint and love to hear stories like this. I am also glad I am part of a church and leadership with similar surroundings and goals that families like his can come to as well. Plus we have a wicked band too 🙂

    • and ps Maurilio…this post could generate some very interesting discussion from folks outside of Nashville….we have a blessing around the Nashville area with Pete, and others (won't mention other names to pull away from Pete and how amazing he is) who provide such a dynamic environment for us to worship each week. Love it!

  • I learned of this post because my friend Jeff Goins (who commented above) linked to it in his blog post.

    I'm a bit torn by it, to be honest. But before I go into that, let me say how I tend to approach things these days. In a world where anybody can say anything, and it be received as authoritative or not depending on their audience, credentials, etc., I've made it a point to examine what is said, rather than accepting or denying it because of who said it. In other words, you can be the pope or my very own pastor – it doesn't matter all that much to me – and I will test what you say to determine how true it is. In sermons, of course, I do this by comparing what is said to Scripture through the process of exegesis. In Christian blogs, I try to do it by appealing what Scripture says is true while making room for logic, etc. I only say this stuff, because I'm often dismissed or criticized for being "divisive" or argumentative. That isn't my intention. I'm simply trying to weigh what is said appropriately. And, hey, I figured I'd share with you how I'm processing through this.

    All of that said, I have some questions about what you're saying here. It is not that what you're saying is bad…certainly we would like for people to like to come to our churches, but it is important that people are coming for the right reasons, right?

    So, in this case, here's what I'm confused by:

    1. The quality of the church is being judged by a kid. I don't bring this up because kids don't have anything to offer. I bring it up because without knowing much about the kid, his opinion doesn't mean much. The same kid might also say that he thinks Batman is cooler than Spiderman and his opinion bears no relevance for me. So why does the kid's opinion matter in this case? How do I know the kid likes your church because it is "life-transforming" rather than just because it has sweet music and a cool-looking pastor who is hip and funny?

    2. You've used the term "Gospel" without definition and implied that the preaching of it is boring. More is needed to keep people at a church than just preaching the Gospel. Now, I get that the hearing of the word and the doing of the word are qualitatively different and that Jesus has called us to both, but you haven't offered what Crosspoint does differently than other churches that results in both. You've said that Crosspoint is a certain way, but haven't said what it makes it that. Further, I wonder if a church is to be praised for not boring people with the Gospel? Where is the balance between being Biblical and being engaging? And how is a pastor to weigh the two in their own preaching?

    3. There's a disconnect between your original post and your later comment in response to Doug. Perhaps it is unintentional or perhaps you've inflated one person's experience and made it something it is not. So, in your post you say:

    "I’m not talking about worship or teaching styles."

    And in two comments follow that up with:

    "He connected with the teaching style of Pete Wilson more than anything else."

    "Jeff, for better or worse people's opinion of the church is reflected on how they feel about the pastor. As a matter of fact 80% of the people will join the church because they relate to the pastor during the message."

    So my question is: haven't you just reinforced what you said this isn't about?

    Lastly, you mention a church creating life-transformation rather than just passing on knowledge. I have to ask: what do you mean? In other words, what is the qualitatively different thing the church does that creates life-transformation? How do you know when a church transforms lives as opposed to giving information? And what, if any, role does the Holy Spirit have in this? Is there a moment where the church stops and the Holy Spirit begins in the process of transformation? What is it? How can other churches do the same?

    • Jesse, obviously I'm not Maurilio, but I'll bet he didn't elaborate on what CP does differently because he didn't want the post to be obscene in length. Attending CP myself, I can say that they do things significantly different than a lot of churches I've attended. The way they user people from attendance into service to the community is much different than other churches…it's a more nurturing style for people not accustomed to service. They invite you to join them in serving rather than what I see from a lot of churches which is a list of opportunities and if you want them you can try to track down a staff member. CP staff are very pro-active about helping people go deeper in service. They're not perfect and there are things that sometimes trouble me but you'll have that regardless of whatever church you walk into. They're run by imperfect humans so by nature they'll be imperfect.

      I know that wasn't directed at me but I attend CP and thought I could help you out. 🙂

      • Thanks for commenting, Jason. I've never been to CP so I don't know much about it. I've read Pete's blog from time to time, but that's about it.

        Your point is well made, but I'll posit that it actually presents a critique, of sorts, of this post. Here's why: if it takes quite a bit of space to talk about what CP is doing different, a short "your church is boring people with the Gospel" probably isn't helpful to know what is actually wrong (if anything) with the other church.

        I think you'll agree that not being bored is not a concern the church should really care all that much about. Otherwise, Scripture would contain some sort of instruction about it. But the Scripture does have quite a bit to say about the content of one's message, thus Paul's repeated emphasis on sound Biblical doctrine in his various letters.

        Without making any accusations against CP or Pete Wilson at all, in my experience, churches that attract the most people because it isn't boring also lack strong Biblical teaching. In general, that a crowd gathers at a particular church on Sunday mornings doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot.

        So that's a bit of what concerns me about this post: the Gospel (that is, the entire message of Scripture) is being thrown under the bus in exchange for a church that, so far as I can tell, is more exciting and which people like to come to. Obviously, that is worded a bit harshly, but I do so only to make my point. If the exchange being made is the gospel/boring and not the gospel/exciting, its a poor one.

  • Like Jesse, I too am a little torn by your post but for a different reason. Most Christians I've met really haven't gone deep enough with their faith to be able to see the passion in different styles of worship or with different pastors. Their choice of church doesn't come necessarily from a place of wanting "life-transformation" but rather a place that feels comfortable and fits their wheelhouse when it comes to worship style or sermon style/type/length. It took me quite a while after I came to Christ to really be able to see the movement of God within churches where their chosen worship style or pastoral style wasn't my preferred method.

    I'll more than give you the benefit of the doubt with this young man and the motives of his family since I don't know them. However, I know a lot of people who made similar declarations in churches whose worship style and preaching was just more in line with their preferences for entertainment and reading versus really being life-transformational. That's why your post just set off some alarm bells with me. If we shut ourselves out to (for example) churches that only play hymns on a pipe organ, then we may say it's "boring" when in reality they're passionate and proclaiming the gospel with vigor…the problem is with the receiving unit between our ears.

    • I think the point you make here, Jason, is also very good. I know few people who have switched churches for the mature reasons that we would actually like – strong, Biblical preaching, focus on discipleship, etc. – than simply for style reasons or because they do children's ministry better.

      A church's love for Christ or effectiveness should never be judged – either positively or negatively – based on its style.

      • Jesse, not to be a jerk, but isn't saying "in my experience, churches that attract the most people because it isn't boring also lack strong Biblical teaching" kind of doing what you said shouldn't be done? You're insinuating an "exciting" church that pulls people in can't be solidly based in the Bible. And really, what defines "strong Biblical teaching?" The pastor's sermon going point by point through the Bible itself? A pastor relating life stories to Scripture and empowering the people listening to take instructions from the Word and serve others?

        • I was careful to begin that sentence with "in my experience." Of course, there definitely can be exciting churches out there that are very Biblical – they just seem to be few and far between. But, I digress. Unfortunately, most of us have not been trained to ask whether our church is Biblical so we don't even know how to process through something like this. Its seems for many, so long as the preacher says the name, "Jesus" and occasionally reads a verse, the church passes for being Biblical.

          Now as for what is considered strong, Biblical teaching, obviously it is up for debate which I think would be a worthy subject.

          For one thing, it must be exegetical. The preacher should also establish what it meant to its original audience through hermeneutical analysis before he/she ever makes an attempt at modern application.

          For another, Christ needs to be the focus – not the preacher and certainly not me. Jesus said all of Scripture points to him. So should all of our preaching, even topical preaching.

          As a last one (for now), it needs to get Law and Gospel right. Any sermon that tells us how we should live without also telling us that we'll never be able to get it right and thus we are to accept the grace of God and live in light of that, is destructive. A lot of sermons today tend to go heavy on the Law with promise of some sort of blessing resulting in Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

  • Great discussion here guys. Jesse, my point is that Scriptures are alive and they are transformational and too often pastors preach or teach a dry and irrelevant message. I was trying to be careful and not say that this is a contemporary or traditional or exegetical or topical issue. I think it's a transformational issue. And by that I meant that not only people should learn about the Bible but our lives should reflect a biblical model of living. In my mind, there's no excuse to take the best news in the world and make it mundane and uninteresting.

    • Thanks for replying Maurilio. I'm a little confused by what you're saying, though. If the Gospel is the message that Christ has died for our sins, how can it be irrelevant?

      I'm also unclear on how this transcends a particular style of preaching to where it is, as you say, "transformational." How does one avoid making the Gospel mundane and uninteresting? What are the markers of this?

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